MAKStripe Parallel Port does posses a magnetic head with three tracks, so all three tracks of a LoCo or HiCo magnetic stripe card can be read at the same time. Magnetic stripe cards can have a bit density between 1 and 210 BPI (75 BPI, 210 BPI and also other non ISO densities).
MAKStripe Parallel Port is avialable in two versions:
MAKStripe Parallel Port is connected directly to the parallel port of a PC. No external power supply is required.
MAKStripe Parallel Port differs from other readers / writers by not possessing any decoder and encoder chip. The data are digitalized and transferred direct to the PC, where the analysis is performed. Due to the direct reading / writing, opportunities are given, which are not available with usual readers/writers.
MAKStripe Parallel Port is controlled with the software "Magnetic - Stripe Card Explorer for Windows 95 / 98 /Me / NT /2000 / XP", which is supplied with MAKStripe Parallel Port.
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MAKStripe Parallel Port has to be connected to a free parallel port on the PC. In the mainboard BIOS setup of the PC, this port has to be configured as a Standard Parallel Port (SPP).
The read and write procedure is time critical, so a faster PC > 300MHz is recommended.
The software "Magnetic-Stripe Card Explorer" will also work on slower PCs - it has been successfully tested on a 100MHz Pentium, but the error quote will be higher. Magnetic-Stripe Card Explorer requires a monitor / graphic card resolution of 1024 x 768 or moore.
The read and write procedures are time critical. It is strongly recommended to exit all background applications such as a Internet connection / download, tape / HDD backup procedures, TV cards, and other similar applications, which require a high amount of CPU time, before starting a read or write procedure.
The software "Magnetic-Stripe Card Explorer" has been successfully tested with Windows 95 / 98 / ME / NT / 2000 / XP. The software accesses MAKStripe Parallel Port directly through the parallel port and does not need any drivers.
The swipe speed, with which usually a magnetic stripe card is being swiped is in the range between 20 and 50 cm/s. In this swipe speed range, the data is decoded error free with highest probability.
Depending on the quality, with which the magnetic stripe card has been written, its age and condition, it is often possible to read the magnetic stripe card successfully with a very low swipe speed ...
... or a very high swipe spped.
The minimum swipe speed in the first example is only 7 cm/s at the start of the card and the maximum swipe speed in the second case is 140 cm/s at the card end.
Reading Magnetic Stripe Cards
Start the software and select the "Decode menu".
Press the "Scan port for data" button and swipe the card through the reader. After the data is read, press the "Stop scanning" button to stop scanning the port.
The software will read all 3 tracks from the card, the real bit rate and swipe-speed through the whole swipe process of the magnetic stripe card are estimated. The data are demodulated according the F2F modulation and displayed. If ANSI or BCD character sets are detected, the software will decode the data and check the parity and the LRC checksum. If both parity and LRC are "OK" (green) then the data has been read correctly - otherwise a new swipe has to be performed.
The display is given with the ALFA or BCD character set (in case, such data is present).
or in ISO standard
To save the data, select the "Save" command from the "File" menu. The data will be saved in original form "as is" with the complete swipe characteristics. Even if the data is in a non-standard format, it will be saved correctly.
MAKStripe Parallel Port offers, as a direct magnetic stripe card reader, advanced signal analysis options far beyond the technical opportunities of a normal magnetic card reader.
In case of magnetic stripe card readers, which do contain a decoder chip, the data will be decoded and the signal will be submitted time delayed through two data lines (data and clock) to the PC, where further processing is performed.
Beyond the usual data decoding, the exact signals on a magnetic stripe card can be read, and with the graphical representation of this data you can identify in one look the data modulation, signal quality, and various schemes of non-standard tracks, that are used for authentication purposes.
MAKStripe Parallel Port submits the digitalized data in real time to the PC, the real bit density and also the swipe speed during the entire time interval of swiping of the magnetic stripe card can be estimated.
Although it is reasonable to expect that the swipe speed is constant during the whole process, the swipe speed is in the beginning rising and after a period of acceleration it reaches a relative constant value.
The reason herefore is that after the magnetic stripe card has touched the magnetic head, the swiping speed decreases rapidly for a short period of time until the magnetic head has raised and taken it's correct place on the card. Afterwards the speed is increasing and the continuous swipe speed is reached at approximately 60%.
Every magnetic stripe card reader/writer is unique. The bit density differs at the beginning and the end of the card. Knowing this fact, it is possible to examine if the tracks of the magnetic stripe cards have been written with one and the same magnetic stripe card reader / writer, in single or multiple swipes, or with different writers.
Also a analysis of the quality of the written data is possible.
Here some typical examples:
This are data from a magnetic stripe card, written with a high quality writer. Both tracks have been written in one swipe. A difference can hardly be noticed.
In this case the first track is written in the first swipe, the second track is written in a separate swipe. It can be noticed that both tracks have been written on the same magnetic card writer model. The two tracks are almost parallel.
Tracks 2 and 3 have been written in one swipe. Track 1 has been written afterwards on a different magnetic card writer.
With MAKStripe Parallel Port and the software "Magnetic-Stripe Card Explorer", every single tick, bit or character with the flux direction, its size in microseconds, and its position can be analysed.
In order to eliminate noise and HF (radio waves) interference, the trigger level for the Analog -> Digital converter is several micro volts above 0V. For this reason when reading data from the card, the Flux1 length will be shorter then the Flux 0 length, or the opposite may take place depending on the direction the card was swiped.
If the card is older, and the magnetic field is week, this effect will be more noticeable.
The length difference will also be different for different swipe speeds and bit density. If you swipe the card with a higher speed, the signal will be stronger then if you swipe the card with a lower speed.
The F2F modulation method, mostly used in magnetic cards applications, enables to write the data and clock together on the magnetic card. In this modulation a magnetic flux reversal between two clock cycles ( a tick) will mean a logical "1" and if such a magnetic flux reversal is missing, it represents a logical "0".
The track data contains two tick duration sizes, the first smaller size for the "1 bits" and the second larger size for the "0 bits".
The tick duration for the "0 bits" is two times longer then the tick duration for the "1 bits".
In the Tick_Nr. / Tick_duration graphic, the Ticks are grouped in two streams. The first represents the "1 bit" ticks, the second the "0 bit" ticks.
The two data groups in one stream are the "Flux"0" and "Flux 1" Ticks, the length difference as described before, is clearly noticeable.
On a week signal the "Flux0" and "Flux 1" duration difference is much larger.
This card is also read error free, but it is much more error sensitive on too slow or too high swipe speeds.
With the Tick Nr. / Tick duration graphic, immediately the type of data on the track, and its quality can be seen.
A F2F modulation will have two data streams. But a track modulated with the more rarely used MFM (Modified Frequency Modulation) would contain 3 data streams.
With the MFM modulation (also referred as MNRZb1, Miller Code and Delay Modulation DM) the data density is doubled without increasing the magnetic transition density.
This is achieved by using 3 tick duration sizes. A 1 bit cell tick, a 1.5 bit cell tick and a 2 bit cell tick.
If you would swipe such a card in a normal magnetic card reader containing a F2F decoding IC, you would only get a error message without knowing what has produced it. With MAKStripe Parallel Port you can exactly see what data is on the card.
A other example of a non-standard track is this track from a magnetic card used in a German company.
It shows a very elegant copy protection method. In the lead-in data the "Flux 0" Tick duration are much larger then the "Flux 1" ticks. After the data starts (first 1 bit) , the data stream continues with a normal F2F modulation. This anomaly can not be noticed with a normal magnetic card reader, and also not be written with a normal magnetic card writer. A card written with this track on a normal magnetic card writer, would seem like a correct copy on that reader / writer, but it would not contain the correct lead-in sequence.
Not only that MAKStripe Parallel Port shows exactly every tick duration, it is also capable to make a exact copy of this track.
With the software "Magnetic-Stripe Card Explorer", the read data can be saved / written in RAW format, as they have been read out. No data and properties are lost.
Due to the RAW mode it is also possible to develop various copy protection schemes, to use and copy them.
For example, after the data end with the LRC (Longitudinal Redundancy Check), there are written up to 60 bits "0" until the cards end. In part - or also in the data part - a very simple but effective copy protection scheme with the use of a simple magnetic flux reversals could be implemented.
For example with a simple "lost" magnetic flux reversal, you would make a undefined und unrecognisable area in the F2F modulation.
A normal reader and / or writer would not be able to recognise this hole, but it would see this undefined area as a distortion in the swiping procedure and would ignore it. MAKstripe Parallel Port could identify this card without errors.
It is technically not possible to read or copy such a magnetic flux reversal sequence with a normal magnetic card reader and / or writer containing a decoder / encoder IC.
The copied magnetic card would have the same data as the original and would be seen as a successfully copy. But the whole or other magnetic flux reversal would not be present on the card.
MAKStripe Parallel Port is capable to read this and other total non-standard tracks in RAW mode, to save them, and to write them later to other magnetic stripe cards. The copy would be 100% the original.
In the data analysis menu, the data which have been read / loaded can be analysed. You can select the exact start position and the character size. As a result, you will get the parity for each bit group and the LRC from the start to the current position.
By using this analysis you can identify the bit size of unknown character sets and analyse possible errors you might get.
For example on this magnetic card from a German company, the identical data sequences are written 3 times.
Every data sequence ends with the valid LRC and is followed by a two "00000" bit groups (parity is wrong) as separation data between the data sequences.
These 2*2=4 "00000" are reproducing 4 parity errors.
After the analysis we know that the data has been read correctly, even there are 4 parity errors present.
On a other card we have seen a very simple method to confuse normal software, by inserting several bits before the actual data starts. This data stream can not be normally identified, because the start sequence is not "Start Sentinel". You can examine and identify such data by skipping several bits by changing the analysis start bit.
Writing Tracks with MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port
MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port can also be used for writing LoCo magnetic stripe cards. In each writing procedure one or two tracks can be written with MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port - in any desired bit density, modulation and character set. MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port is controlled directly, and it depends only on the software what can be done. The hardware will allow every modulation, density and data types.
LoCo magnetic stripe cards with up to 3 tracks can be written. LoCo magnetic stripe cards are the most used magnetic stripe cards, as for example Cash cards, Credit cards, Identification cards, etc. MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port is not suitable for writing HiCo magnetic stripe cards, which are rarely used - in industry buildings and at airports, where strong magnetic fields exist, which could damage the magnetic stripe card.
It has to be emphasized that MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port is not a "plug and play device". Due to the fact, that it is a swipe writer, it can not be guaranteed that each process of writing will be successful. Speed variations during the swipe process can cause errors, so a new writing attempt could be necessary.
MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port is not recommended for writing of big quantities magnetic stripe cars. For writing of greater amounts magnetic stripe cards, we do recommend a motor driven magnetic stripe writer.
Practise experience is necessary for successful writing of magnetic cards, using the MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port.
Because the data are written by the MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port direct - without using a encoder chip - it is possible to write exactly defined data to the card, with a defined start, data stream and end. For copy protection purposes also characters with inverted parity can be written and modulations used, which do not comply to any norm.
Through the input of various parameters also influence on the bit density and also the size of single bits can be undertaken. So the writing of tracks with the exact wished properties can be performed.
Also fully unknown data, not depending on the used character sets and modulation, can be read, analysed and written on other magnetic stripe cards.
So MAKStripe Parallel Port is a great device for experimental studies and for laboratories.
The writing of LoCo magnetic stripe cards is performed in three steps:
Step 1 - Select or format a reference track
In order to write a Track, a existing track (reference track) must exists on the magnetic stripe card.
You can use a existing track on the magnetic card, or make a reference track on a blank card by "Formatting" it. This track can be later erased and rewritten.
If there already is a existing track on the magnetic stripe card, just select this track in the "Reference Track" frame. This track is only been read in the writing procedure, in order to determinate the magnetic stripe card characteristics. It is not erased, changed or damaged in any way.
If the card, you intend to write is blank, then you have to format a reference track.
Select the reference track to be formatted and press the "Format Reference Track" Button. After this the software will start the formatting procedure, with the duration defined in the text box. In this time you have to swipe the magnetic card through MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port.
After the track is formatted, you can verify the formatting by reading the card and go to the Signal analysis menu. The formatted track contains a simple 0 bit data stream
The tick durations are grouped in one group on the right side of the graphic.
Step 2 - Erase the track, which has to be written
It is not necessary required to erase the track, in the writing procedure the previous data is overwritten erase by the new data that is written to the track.
But it is advisable to Erase and/or eRASE the track you intend to write to, in order to avoid any errors resulting from the previous data and to get a high quality track without distortion.
Just select the track you want to erase in the "Destination Frame" and press the "Erase" or the "eRASE" button. The erase procedure will have a duration which is defined in the text box. Within this time you must swipe the card through MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port.
"Erase" is erasing the track in the "Flux 0" direction, "eRASE" in the "Flux 1" direction.
Step 3 - Selecting the track and data to write
Possible sources of data are Track#1, #2 or #3 from a magnetic stripe card, which has previous been read or loaded into the buffer, or custom data. In addition MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port is also able to write two tracks with at once. Select the desirable option in the "Source data" frame.
In the "Custom data" frame you can write your own data or change data from a track previous read/loaded track.
To get a read/loaded track into the data textbox, click on the "Copy" button from the "Copy from Track" frame. The data will be transferred into the data textbox and can now be edited.
All data have to start with a "Start Sentinel" and end with a "End Sentinel" followed by the LRC. To insert a "Start Sentinel", "Field separator", "End Sentinel" or the LRC just press on the respective button in the "Insert special chars" frame.
When finished, press the "Auto properties" button to recalculate the total number of bits and the other data parameters.
This data can be saved / loaded as text files by using the "Load" and "Save" buttons.
Now select the track, you want to write the data to (Destination), and select the reference track you have formatted in Step 1.
MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port is also capable to write two tracks with one writing procedure. In the following example, it is selected that track one and track two from the source card, will be written to track 1 and track 2 of the destination card.
After you have defined the source data, destination and reference track you can proceed with the actual writing.
Press the "Write" button, and swipe the card 2 times through the MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port. In the first swipe the reference track will be read, in the second swipe the actual data will be written to the selected destination track.
The swipe speed should be about 20cm/s-30cm/s for the best writing results.
After the writing procedure read the card and go to the "Signal Analysis" menu.
The ticks should be grouped in two streams. The first represents the "1 bit" ticks, the second the "0 bit" ticks.
The "0 bit" ticks should be approx. 2 times larger as the "1 bit" ticks.
The two data groups in one stream are the Fluxes "0" and "1", they should have a little difference as in this graphic.
If you get a graphic like this, the two streams are to close to each other. The reason for this is that the "0" Flux is much larger then the "1" Flux or visa versa.
To fix this go to the "Write Track" menu, and make the adjustment with the "0/1 adj." slider.
Write and adjust the slider several times until you get a graphic as shown before.
After a successfully "0/1 adj." Take a look at the achieved bit rate. If it is 210 BPI (+/-5%) as intended, then the track has been written successfully, if it is lower or higher go to the "Write data to Track" menu.
"BPI adj." slider and adjust it as required. Increase the value for a higher bit rate, decrease it for a lower bit rate.
After the adjustment the difference between several writings should not be more then 10 %, depending on the characteristics on the swipe you will make.
If you want to bypass the automatic speed adjustment, select the "Swipe speed=Ref." Checkbox. In this case the writing swipe speed must be the same as the read reference Track swipe speed.
Depending on the swipe speed (and speed change) that have been used in the writing procedure, the 2 or 3 tracks on the card might not have the same swipe characteristics.
With a little experience and just several write procedures, it is possible to write tracks with such a quality that is in nothing behind than a expensive motor driven magnetic card writer.
Data - Modification / Editing
The most easy way to modify data is available in the "Decode" menu in "Char" Mode.
After clicking on the appropriate field, changing the desired data and pressing the "Enter" key, the data is changed and the LRC automatically recalculated.
Example for changing the text in field 2 of Track 1 from "IS" to "HAS BEEN"
In the "Signal Analysis" menu in addition sophisticated opportunities for changing and modifiing of each character and even of each separate tick is available.
Developing of Software for MAKStripe RO Parallel Port / MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port
MAKStripeRead ActiveX Control, gives the opportunity to write your own software for MAKStripe RO Parallel Port/ MAKStripe R2TAO Parallel Port. This ActiveX control provides following subroutines and functions: